Environmentalists and residents to protest Bio Bay development

March 31, 2016

BIO BAY Destruction_B-W_031716

A group of environmentalists and residents are planning to take to land and sea this evening to peacefully express their concerns regarding the planned National Park Service’s research facility near the bioluminescent bay in the Salt River area.

Britney Knight

ST. CROIX – A group of environmentalists and ordinary residents who want to preserve a picturesque spot on The Big Island, will add their opposition to the planned National Park Service’s research facility at the bioluminescent bay when the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior tours the Salt River location today.

NPS Superintendent Joel Tutein is expected to give Interior Secretary Sally Jewell a tour of the area and protesters are planning to take to land and sea this evening to peacefully express their concerns and why they are against the $64-million research and education complex.

The NPS has said it is moving forward with plans that began in 1999 to construct the marine research center on a peninsula in Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve located next to the mangrove lagoon, also known as Bio Bay.

“We’re not objecting to marine research here, we’re objecting to the location,” Michael Baron, vice president of the VI Conservation Society said in a phone interview with the St. Croix Avis on Wednesday.

Baron encouraged residents to join the group this evening to let Jewell know that there is opposition to the project.

“This is not a jump up and down screaming and yelling kind of protest: this is just a demonstration of how we care for Bio Bay and Cape of The Arrows,” he said.

The peaceful protest will take place at the entrance of Estate Judith’s Fancy and in the waters of Bio Bay beginning at 5 p.m. Organizers asked that residents with kayaks to meet at the Judith’s Fancy entrance to Salt River Park. There also will be kayaks for use, but the quantity is limited, according to a statement released by the St. Croix Environmental Association.

In addition to members of SEA and the Conservation Society, kayak tour providers who make a living offering tours of Bio Bay and members of the Senate who have expressed concerns over the proposed development, are expected in attendance.

During a Feb. 4 hearing and after passionate testimony from eight environmentalists, residents and kayak tour operators about the potential threat the project to build a marine research facility would have on the bioluminescent bay, senators said they would lobby the federal government to reconsider the proposed site location.

Part of the concerns, according to Baron, is a proposed ramp that is going to be placed in what he said was “the heart” of Bio Bay.

Bio Bay, which was created artificially from a failed hotel and marina development in the 1970s prior to Salt River Bay’s designation as a national park, is the home of the bioluminescent dinoflagellate species that creates a green glow in the water upon contact.

“Just for the fact of its rarity and beauty, it should be preserved and should not be at risk from construction,” Baron said.

Residents who want to attend the protest can reach SEA for more information via Kayaks at 340-244-8696 or Virgin Kayak Tours at 340-718-0071.